Eating fresh fruit when it’s in season

8 09 2013

Ahhh, cortland apples are now popping up at the Greenmarkets.

My most favoritest fruit.

Last year it seemed as if it wasn’t available until late September, and then the apples were small and given to softness. They were still around in the markets into November, I think, but by late season they were all soft.

Which is too bad, because while the taste is pleasing, it is the sweet-tart in combination with the dense crispness that makes the cortland so delicious. That first bite explodes the apple, as if its juice were under pressure beneath the taut skin, snapping you to the fact that this is not a meal to be eaten mindlessly: attention must be paid.

I expect to pay attention daily for the next six weeks or so.

~~~

“Brand loyalty is for suckers”—that’s my thing.

However. I should also point out when something is well done, well, that matters.

Years ago, when I had more than two dimes to rub together, I bought some really nice pots, pans, and knives through various open source sales at Dayton’s. I was in the midst of trying to convince myself that I would enjoy cooking and thought that good stuff would aid in that endeavor.

It didn’t: I don’t really like cooking. Still, the good stuff is good, and to the extent that I do cook, it helps.

Anyway, one of the pots I bought was a Calphalon, and it was that lid which shattered a few weeks ago. Given that Calphalon is a fairly high-end product, I thought I’d check if the lid were covered by warranty. It was an old lid—over ten years old—and there was something on the site that mentioned certain old pots & pans weren’t covered.

But nothin’ about lids, so I thought I’d send an e-mail, inquiring. And I heard back, and after a few back-and-forths (requests for further information, a jpeg of the lid in question), the very nice customer service rep, Tony, said he’d said me a new lid.

Which completely surprised me: I really thought he’d send an apologetic “it’s too old. . .” email and include a link for where to purchase a new lid.

So I got it, and while it’s not as good as the old lid—the brim is wider (I think because it’s meant to fit on multiple pots/pans) and the glass isn’t as rounded—it’s still a mighty fine lid, and I am very glad to have it.

For free.

I stand by Brand loyalty is for suckers, but just because I think it’s silly to decide a purchase solely on brand, it’s also silly to ignore the good experience one has had with a product. It’s not that from here on out, I’ll only buy Calphalon (assuming need and finances, of course), but they’ll at least get first look.

~~~

Oh, and that whole don’t-like-cooking thing? This pretty much extends to everything food-preparation.

I mean, I kinda—kinda—like baking, and I’ll happily help someone else in the kitchen, but if you were to ask me, Absurdbeats, how do you like to relax/entertain/enjoy yourself? cooking ain’t appearing anywhere in my response.

Actually, I find this whole DIY-trend to basic living mildly alarming. I have no desire to grow my own cotton, weave my own cloth, sew my own clothes, make my own pasta, or churn my own ice cream. Yes, I’ll occasionally whip up a batch of cookies, and I do make the best caramel corn in the world, but I do these things because I like to eat them, not because I like to make them.

Okay, yes, I wouldn’t mind a garage in which I could put some basic woodworking tools—table, miter, and band saws, drill press, sander (and I’d take a class on how truly to work this stuff, rather than half-assing it as I currently do)—and I did kind of dig throwing pottery. And yes, if I had a yard, I’d probably give a garden a go—tho’ if I didn’t enjoy it, I’d plow that sucker under and put in some berry bushes.

But on the food-and-clothing front, I am more than happy to have someone else do the work. I do some sewing repairs because I’m a cheap bastard who hates waste, and I cook some stuff because I’m a cheap bastard who finds it easier to make the basic shit myself rather than overpay for it.

It’s just not that hard to make a plate of pasta.

Anyway, on the not-overpaying front, I did make 3-ish batches of pesto today. My basil was still growing, but the plants were getting so little light that it was past time to pull ’em up. I’d have had more basil had I not clipped a bunch recently, but I think I got enough to get me into next summer.

I could have supplemented with some Greenmarket basil, but I thought I’d see how far my own stuff would take me. If it’s not enough, I’ll adjust next year.

One point in my favor this year: I figured out ahead of time how to assemble the mixer such that I don’t spill the contents when I remove the container from the motor. It’s really not that complicated, I know, but last year I put some part outside of the jar  that should have gone inside of it, and when I lifted that sucker up. . . pesto everywhere.

And you wonder why I don’t enjoy kitchen life.

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Jane says

4 10 2009

Do you know Jane?

‘Jane’ was the name of the underground abortion service in Chicago in the late sixties and early seventies; it wound down after the Roe decision in 1973.

As told by Laura Kaplan (who was a part of Jane) in The Story of Jane, a number of women in the Chicago area put together a not-for-profit and completely illegal service, one which they eventually expanded to include pap smears and female health education. Although a few members were eventually busted (somewhat by mistake), they operated for years with the knowledge both of police and various ‘legit’ medical professionals.

That such an underground service existed is not a surprise. What is stunning, however, is how completely fucking radical these women were. They initially relied upon various sympathetic and/or mercenary doctors to perform the abortions, but eventually learned how to do them themselves.

You got that? These women received training from a guy who received training from a doctor—and went ahead and performed not only D&Cs, but also vacuum aspiration, and, eventually, second-trimester abortions.

I’m as pro-choice as they come, but even I blanched when I read that. Fucking hell, I thought, second-trimester abortions done in apartments and hotel rooms?!

But they were good. One woman did die—a death which led some members to drop out, and to a great deal of turmoil for those who remained—but her death was almost certainly the result of an infection caused by  abortion attempts performed elsewhere. Upon realizing the extent of her infection, Jane members told her to go immediately go to the hospital; she waited more than a day, then died at the hospital.

Kaplan describes the meeting following the woman’s death:

As details of the story were recounted, a numbness spread throughout the room. They had founded the service to save women from dying and now the very thing they were trying to prevent had happened.

That was the whole point of Jane, to save women; even more, to give them a way to save themselves.

It wasn’t simply about making safe, inexpensive abortions available to women, it was also about women—both Jane members and those who used their service—taking responsibility for their own lives. Jane set up training for their members, and provided counseling for the women who came to them. They didn’t have moral qualms about abortion itself, but they were careful to ask anyone who seemed uncertain if she really wanted to go through with it. The decision, and the responsibility, lay with the woman herself.

Kaplan is not a deft storyteller, but she is an honest one. She details the egos and tensions, the difficulties of involvement with an underground organization, the conflicts with other women’s liberation organizations, and all the varieties of risk taken by Jane and the women they helped. All of these women shared desperation: the women (‘participants’, not patients) who came to Jane for help, and the members of Jane themselves, to help all who asked for it.

It was, in fact, that desperation to save women from unsafe abortions that led Jane to take over the operation itself, and to end up inducing 2nd-trimester miscarriages. If we don’t do it, they worried, what will happen to all these women?

There’s so much more to The Story of Jane. I used it in my ‘Women and Politics’ course I taught this past summer as a way not only to foreground reproductive issues, but also the issue of underground, anarchist, or DIY politics. Does underground work affect politics above the ground, or does DIY simply let the above-grounders off the hook? Or is the effect on ‘normal’ politics less the issue than the creation of one’s own politics?

I’m still chewing over those larger political issues. But when it comes to abortion, I wonder if Jane didn’t have the right idea. I’m a big fan of Planned Parenthood (see my links list), but they are at the forefront of putting abortion and contraception firmly within the medical sphere, i.e., within the sphere of specialization and  licensure and, most importantly, women-as-patients.

Jane insisted that abortion was something that women participated in, not that it was something done on or to them. This is your body, they repeated over and over and over, this is your life. In this context, the notion that women should have some idea of their own genitalia—a kind of mirror-empowerment which, honestly, always kind of put me off—seems less woo than utterly practical. How can you take care of yourself if you don’t know what you look like?

I know, there are both hospital-based and free-standing women’s clinics, not a few of which are also interested in patient or client education. And, frankly, autoclaves and medical education seem to me very good things.

But what about responsibility and liberation and solidarity? What of a woman’s (or any) emancipatory movement premised upon the simple declaration that you can and must free yourself? Jane was not encouraging women to bust out into chaos, but to recognize themselves as full human beings, and to inculcate a sense of responsibility not only to themselves but to those around around them.

With liberty and justice for all. Pretty fucking radical, huh?





Sisters are doing it for themselves

3 06 2009

Nothing like teaching about women and politics to fire up the ol’ feminist engine.

I’ve been a feminist since junior high, when my college-age sister brought home a Ms. magazine she had received free on campus. Zing! I had a subscription all through high school.

(I also joined a local chapter of NOW. Meetings took place in a nearby town, so before I had my driver’s license, my mom or dad would have to drive me to the meetings.)

And I was a loudmouth in college, of course, and noticed how left-wing men could be incredibly piggish around women. I wore my buttons and shouted my slogans and. . . not much more.

In grad school I studied contemporary political theory, but not feminist theory. There was a fair amount of essentialist crap floating around at the time (women are more maternal, more peaceful, more cooperative, better. . .), as well as the psychoanalytically-influenced theory from Europe. Psychoanalysis: bleh.

So I fell out of it. Yes, still a feminist, but, after awhile, I just stopped paying attention to feminist movements, to actual feminist activities. Distracted, for all kinds of reasons.

Well. The past year or so I’ve been teaching a basic politics course which my department prefers to center on women. I’ve kind of resisted this, wondering about the students in my courses, worried that the men in particular would think this isn’t ‘real’ or ‘serious’ politics.

Stupid, I know, but I did have to remind myself, repeatedly, that I wouldn’t make apologies for teaching a course which centered on race or class, and that, last time I checked, women were, oh, about half the world’s population. We matter! Yeah, we do!

Right?

This summer, however, I’m teaching a course explicitly about women and politics, so I don’t have to worry that the students are going to feel suckered into learning about girl stuff: they know straight up what they’re getting into. And, boy, nothing like reading how women are screwed at every level of politics to rekindle my energies.

One student had asked for some form of analytical framework for the course, and I responded that the main approach would be to consider 3 levels of analysis: at the institutional or official/governmental level; at the level of civil society, in which movements may be directed either toward affecting official policy or toward other institutions and attitudes within civil society; and at the marginal or underground level, which may encompass everything from (peaceful) separatist movements to illegal acts (such as social support networks for illegal abortion) to activities in repressive states. One of the texts I used tracks roughly along these lines, although their third level is that of revolutionary movements.

Regardless, women are screwed at every level. Sure, there are the good and noble exceptions (institutionally: Scandinavia, Rwanda, South Africa), but, far more often, women’s concerns are shunted aside, women’s movements marginalized, and, in repeat of what I saw in college, even in revolutionary situations, women’s liberation takes a back seat to ‘national’ a.k.a. men’s liberation.

Tough economic times? Cut social welfare provisions. Uncertain security situation? Women must fall back and support the men. Taking over the state? Oh, women will be free ‘after the revolution’.

I know, I know: This is nothing new. Still, I have forgotten so much, have resigned myself to so much, even as I kept stating my fealty to the feminist cause. I stopped paying attention.

I’m hardly ready to go jump over any barricades—I am old and lazy, after all. But it wouldn’t kill me to do more than just bitch about this stuff.

And even if I’ve fallen behind on my feminist analysis, I’ve kept up with my political analysis. Thus, my anarchic streak meets up with a refreshed feminism: DIY feminism and anti-patriarchy. No more compromises on women’s liberation, no more standing back or apologizing for daring to think that the emancipation of half of the fucking world might maybe sorta possibly matter.

Half of the world? Did I say that? How about the whole fucking world? Yep, I’m newly comfortable with discussions of patriarchy (a word that I used to sidle away from, embarrassed), and how it traps men as well as women. Yeah, it sucks that women have to prove their ‘toughness’ , but it also sucks that a man can’t be gentle without having his masculinity questioned. And while women have been able to move into so-called masculine fields—because, of course, women would want to move into something better—men have a far more difficult time lowering themselves to enter so-called feminine fields. Chick lawyer? Check. Guy kindergarten teacher? Um. . . .

Enough. I’m too much the post-structuralist/modernist to think that we can ever be completely free of the nest of power relations, but that’s hardly an excuse for not getting rid of the ones we find odious now.

And that ‘we’ includes me—because, as history clearly demonstrates, ain’t nobody else gonna liberate me. DIY, indeed.

(Image from Red Buddha Designs)